Nearly 70 miles off Key West is the most isolated of the Florida Keys. Dry Tortugas National Park preserves historic Fort Jefferson, seven coral islands and a diverse ecosystem unlike any other in the state. In fact, the archipelago’s coral reefs are the least disturbed of all the reefs in the Keys.
Excellent snorkeling, scuba diving and saltwater fishing draws over 60,000 adventure-seekers each year.
Because of its distance from the main island chain and the rough seas, visitors normally charter a ferry or seaplane to reach the Tortugas. Most end up staying the entire day while others camp in primitive conditions for several days.
Here are 6 reasons why visiting the Dry Tortugas should be on the top of your bucket list.
- The Tortugas are possibly the most remote islands you can visit and still be in the United States. When you go, you’re truly leaving civilization behind. The National Park Service has purposely kept the islands very primitive with no public lodging, water, food, bathing facilities or supplies available. If you like “roughing it,” this is the place.
- Dry Tortugas National Park is a world class birding destination, especially during spring migration. Nearly 300 hundred species of birds have been spotted on the seven islands. So bring your binoculars!
- There’s just as much wildlife to see below the surface of the water. Hundreds of species of marine animals call the Tortugas home inlcuding sea turtles, squid, tropical reef fish, goliath groupers, lobsters, and sharks.
- The historic gem Fort Jefferson is fun to explore. Constructed between 1845 and 1876, Jefferson is one of the best examples of 19th century masonry fortification. During the Civil War, it was used as a prison and, for a time, housed one of the conspirators in the assassination of President Lincoln. Because of its location and exposure to the elements, work is constantly being done to preserve the structure.
- Another structure worth seeing is the Loggerhead Light. Built in the late 1850s, the 150-foot tall lighthouse is located on what’s considered the most dangerous of the keys. Because of its remoteness, prior arrangements must be made with the National Park Service to visit.
- The trip from Key West to the Dry Tortugas averages just over 2 hours. But the voyage is one of the biggest highlights. During the journey, take in the beautiful scenery of the Marquesa Islands and Boca Grande, or sit back and enjoy being, what seems like, a whole world away from the mainland. That’s what I call a true vacation!